Continued on from the last post, where I shared some of the different ways in which God has used my workplace to show me weaknesses in myself, and grown me as a Christian. These things, I am slightly uncomfortable sharing because they reveal a lot of my weaknesses, namely unhealthy stereotyping, snobbish-like beliefs etc. I say them so that God may be glorified, in that He chooses to love me even though I’ve thought really badly about people and people groups.
Value – In my white middle-class bubble, a job loading delivery-vans at Sainsbury’s isn’t considered a career. When I first joined, I remember being slightly overwhelmed that this was some people’s “full-time” job – to get to work at 4 am! With very little potential for climbing up the career ladder. However as I stayed I began to enjoy the actual work, even though it more physically challenging than mentally. I began to think about staying there longer, after I finished my degree, full time!
When I shared this with people their opinions/comments quickly put the idea to the grave. “What a waste”, “you can’t be serious!”, “God has given you the ability for…” (“For what” I can’t really remember I just know that it wasn’t Sainsbury’s -according to person x).
I began to question these opinions one day when into our department came 10-15 business-looking people. They all were dressed in nice suits, shirt and tie, all carried pens and notepads. They observed us at work… I felt a bit like a lab rat to be honest, I was sweating and dressed in my scruffy-uniform, picking up boxes and putting them down. I imagined that they were on a graduate-scheme, observing how stores operated in order to one-day-soon manage their own. I felt a deep injustice as I compared them to my colleagues who arrived extremely early that morning, were repeatedly picking up heavy boxes and had worked for 3 years within the store. The men and women in suits, had a qualification, therefore they were “above us”….(PAUSE!!! I have just made some serious judgments and assumptions about the guys-in-suits. These have may all have been false, plus if they did get qualifications – I bet they worked hard for them. But this paragraph reveals my thought processes – however wrong.)
This experience taught me that it is worldly and wrong, to deem a job more valuable (and the person who does it) just because it pays better, dresses better or is in a better location. I could only have learnt this from my position as someone without reputation in that situation. I have now learnt (to an extent – I wouldn’t say I’m finished on this one) that whatever the work, pay, status (white/blue-collar) I must see it as a gift. Whereas previously I held respect only for those who earned a lot doing what I deemed “dignified” work, now I appreciate that this ascribing of worth to individuals based on their work is WRONG!
Progression – Finally, this job has made me question the importance of progression within a career. Before I held a view that said something like: If I work really hard, if I honor God in my job, I will be promoted. Sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, we are called to be God’s witness with no status, title or position. A biblical example of this is Joseph who served Potiphar with diligence and faithfulness yet was sacked and falsely accused. Work is not about getting to the top of the ladder. Progression is great, and it should be celebrated, but I don’t think God wants it to become the primary motive/agenda.
In these ways, and probably more, God has allowed my time at Sainsbury’s to shape my thinking and understanding of work.